AMD is finally running on all cylinders after a long period of irrelevance and a rough road to the top. The 5000-series CPUs are a smashing success, and even NVidia has cause for concern when it comes to finely-tuned cards like the 6800 XT. It performs on par with or better than the 3080, provided you don’t turn ray-tracing on. You can even expect a slight performance bump if you pair it with a new Ryzen CPU due to Smart Access Memory.
Intel is far from being irrelevant, though, as you’ll see if you read on and discover the best CPUs for Radeon RX 6800 XT. If you can find one at reasonable prices, these processors will let you experience everything the GPU brings to the table.
Best High-end AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6800 XT: Ryzen 9 5900X
Ryzen was a massive success for AMD and quickly became the dream platform for content creators and avid multitaskers. However, even Ryzen 2’s admirable IPC gains weren’t enough to topple Intel’s high-end chips from the gaming throne. That ends with Zen 3’s second most capable processor. It matches or beats the 10900K in almost any game you throw at it at 1080p and is the perfect companion to your 6800 XT, whatever your use case.
There seems to be little change from the 3900X on paper. The newer processor still has the same impressive 105W TDP, twelve cores, a large 64MB L3 cache, and its base clock is 3.7GHz instead of 3.8. Even so, these stats already measure up favorably against the 10900K, to say nothing about the 11900K and its eight cores.
Things become clearer when you take a deeper look at the 5900X’s architecture. AMD has made improvements to everything from the branch predictor to the floating-point and integer units. There’s also less lag between the two CCX complexes. This will be most evident in lightly-threaded games that depend on strong single-core performance. The complexes consist of eight cores each, with four disabled on one of them. Each has access it half of the L3 cache, which also leads to a noticeable bump.
What gains can you expect? AMD claims that the 5900X and other processors in the line can achieve 19% better IPC. Real-world testing suggests that the chip has extended its already considerable margin when it comes to content creation and productivity. However, it’s the gaming results you get at 1080p that speak the loudest. Yes, the 10900K takes the lead in some titles. But how much do 3-4 frames matter once you’re already pushing past 180?
The chip is not without shortcomings, but these are minor. Don’t expect to push it past the max factory overclock or get significantly better results if you do. You’ll also need to invest in a competent cooling system if you plan to do any kind of overclocking. It doesn’t come with any kind of cooler.
Best High-end Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6800 XT: Core i9-10900KF
2020 started as a great year for Intel since 10th-gen processors cemented it as the preferred choice for gaming. The 10900K is the best among them, but you will do just as well with the KF version since it’s cheaper and only loses out on integrated graphics your 6800 XT can handle in its sleep. The chip is still an absolute beast for gaming and does well with multithreaded tasks, but its crown is definitely in dispute.
The 11900K is the newer and technically better option. We can’t in good conscience recommend it over the older model since it is pricier and beings little to no actual improvements.
Intel is taking the competition seriously, as evidenced by an increased core count and cache size over the 9900K. The TDP remains the same at 125W, but that’s just the consumption you can expect without overclocking or even running all ten cores at their stock 3.7GHz peak.
The 10900KF is based on the venerable 14nm process and has a signature monolithic die that houses all cores. It used to afford better single-core stats due to lower latency than AMD’s offerings, but Team Red has since closed that gap. Still. It’s noteworthy that a smaller cache and fewer cores hold their own against Zen 3’s finest.
Overclocking is this CPU’s headline feature. It’s easy to reach advertised speeds of 4.7GHz on all cores without much fiddling, and enthusiasts can up the ante to 5.3GHz if they have the liquid cooling to quench the resulting heat. You can use several turbo boost options to either bring one core to dizzying heights or boost all of them without delving deep into your motherboard’s BIOS.
Engaging those boosts will pay off for enthusiast gamers since the processor consistently tops the charts or loses out against AMD’s strongest in a photo finish. Keep in mind that it is cheaper than the 5950X and 5900X and a better value if your main goal is to max out titles like Cyberpunk and not dip below 100fps.
Best Mid-range AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6800 XT: Ryzen 7 5800X
The third processor in AMD’s newest lineup is in a peculiar place. On the one hand, it’s considerably cheaper than the 5900X. It trounces competitors like the 10700K when it comes to multithreaded tasks, even approaching the mighty 10900K in these. On the other, its peculiar pricing makes the chip less of a value pick than Intel’s equivalent. Even so, the gains it sports over the previous generation are impressive, and sales should level the playing field.
You might also want to take a look at the 3900X if you need a leg up in productivity performance but aren’t ready to spend more than $500 on its successor.
Like its bigger brother, the 5800X differs little from its predecessor. To AMD’s credit, it uses the same AM4 socket as the last generation, allowing you to slot it into most x470 motherboards after applying a BIOS update. This will also enable PCIe 4.0, letting you utilize the fastest possible transfer speeds on compatible M.2 drives.
The chip’s architecture is simpler than we saw with the 5900X since there’s only one CCX this time. It’s made with a 7nm process, while other parts of the die like the I/O are still at 12nm to save resources. The most significant difference lies in L3 cache allocation. Previously, sets of four cores each get to draw on 16MB. Now every core has access to the entire cache, resulting in better single-threaded results.
The 5800X’s biggest strength is its ability to effortlessly jump from complex calculations or rendering to running the latest games at breakneck speeds. There’s no hint of bottlenecking the 6800 XT at 1080p, let alone higher resolutions where the GPU does the brunt of the work. Interestingly, the processor falls only slightly behind more expensive ones in gaming.
We’ve mentioned limited overclocking gains and the absence of a cooling solution for the 5900X. The same is applicable here. However, neither of these should stand in the way of it becoming the heart of your new rig.
Best Mid-range Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6800 XT: Core i7-10700K
Our sweet spot recommendation is another 10th-gen CPU, occupying the iconic x700K position revered for its top-tier gaming chops. The reputation is justified again since it competes against and triumphs over more expensive and more recent AMD models. There’s no better price to performance pick to pair with your 6800 XT, provided gaming is all you care about.
The older chip is a better value, but this time it’s still worthwhile to recommend the 11700K as its alternative. Pick the new model only if you work as well as play on your PC since it has better productivity performance while gaming on it feels the same.
Comet lake marks the end of Intel’s slumber that’s most evident in the mid to high-tier range. For example, the 10700K now has hyperthreading, bringing the line’s thread count up to 16 for the first time. The L3 cache has grown by a third, and clocks have received a 200MHz boost across the board. A higher TDP is inevitable for such advances in Intel’s case, and it now matches the 10900K at 125W.
The 10700K uses the same monolithic CCD as the generation’s flagship CPU. Two of the ten cores are disabled, however. Core processors have begun receiving IPC improvements with Rocket Lake, so older models like this still rely on clock boosts as their primary means of gain. Overclocking is nuanced and offers a great deal of control. You may also turn hyperthreading off on select cores to improve their single-threaded output.
There’s no beating this beast when it comes to FPS per dollar spent. You’ll see AMD’s more expensive alternatives achieve marginally better results in some games, but these carry a price increase of $100 or more. Temperatures are acceptable when overclocking if you supply adequate cooling.
Best Budget AMD CPU for Radeon RX 6800 XT: Ryzen 5 5600X
Zen 3 continues its strong opposition to Intel into the mainstream with the most affordable chip in the line. This is the one to get if you’re purely interested in gaming. It’s marginally less capable in that respect than other chips in the line while being considerably cheaper and breathing down the necks of Intel’s leading offerings.
The R7 3700X is a fine alternative if you’re looking for a similarly-priced processor that does a little better in multithreaded workloads.
AMD is confident about its processors this time around, to the point where each has gained a $50 price hike over the last generation’s equivalent. That being said. The 5600X remains a cost-effective chip due to a tangible increase in IPC and a resulting 30W decrease in TDP. It’s also the only processor in the current lineup to ship with a cooler. The Wraith Spire is much better than the stock coolers Intel bundles with their products.
We’ve already mentioned the beneficial architectural changes added to Zen 3, reflecting on this chip’s performance improvements. The difference here is that its CCX has only six active cores. On the other hand, you can now overclock within limits more easily.
There’s even the capability to put unneeded cores to sleep during lightly threaded work so that active ones can achieve higher clocks while having a lower thermal impact. The Spire will do well for everyday operation, but consider upgrading it if you push the chip frequently and for long periods.
It’s welcome but not unexpected for a six-core chip like the 5600X to step up against the likes of the 10900K and fall only slightly behind in tasks like rendering or video encoding. It’s downright impressive to see it go up against the 10700K in gaming and fall behind by only a couple of percentage points, though.
Best Budget Intel CPU for Radeon RX 6800 XT: Core i5-11600K
Our most affordable Intel pick is also the newest of the bunch. It’s finally a processor with enough new toys & technology advances to warrant recommending over the 10600K, but only if the older one isn’t heavily discounted. You’ll get the best deal out of this Rocket lake CPU if you’re planning to game in 1440p and do some productive work on the side.
The 11600K is another deceptively bland CPU since its spec sheet differs little from its predecessor’s. The basics boil down to a mild shuffling of base & boost core frequencies, while everything else stays the same. It takes peeking under the chip’s hood to understand why it’s a better deal, if only by so much.
Rocket Lake chips are the first in a while to rely on IPC gain rather than overclocking to achieve better results. A new core dubbed Cypress Core is at the heart of this development. Intel originally created it for 10nm mobile processors and adapted it for 14nm use. The core features a slew of improvements at the execution stage, which Intel says adds up to IPC increases of more than 10%.
Memory overclocking has had a redesign, too, with the introduction of the two gear system and the ability to change frequencies from within your operating system. Shifting to the second gear halves the memory controller’s frequency and brings more stability for RAM at clocks exceeding 4GHz.
All of these innovations add up to tangible gains for the 11600K, chiefly in areas where the previous model fell behind AMD – productivity and heavily multithreaded applications. Expect competent results while gaming since the CPU won’t bottleneck your card. It trails behind the similarly-priced 5600X by a few frames most of the time. Still, it wins out in older titles that didn’t place as much emphasis on spreading the workload equally among cores.
Frequently Asked Questions
What CPU should I pair with RX 6800?
The best CPU for you depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your computer. If you’re building a rig focused exclusively on gaming, then Intel’s i7-10700K is the most cost-effective option. A healthy mix of gaming & productivity warrants a reasonably-priced Radeon card.
Which is better RX 6800 XT or RTX 3080?
The answer hinges on what you’re looking for in a modern GPU. Both cards excel at running any game at the highest settings. They only start struggling if you have a 4K monitor, but even then you’ll consistently get more than 60fps out of both as opposed to 100+ on lower resolutions.
The 6800 XT is slightly better at rendering traditional rasterized graphics overall, with more noticeable gains in games explicitly made with AMD cards in mind. Don’t get it if you’re interested in ray-tracing, though, since the technology isn’t as mature as on NVidia’s cards.
Does the RX 6800 XT have ray-tracing?
Yes, all 6000-series Radeon cards offer ray-tracing. It’s AMD’s first attempt at the technology, so the results aren’t as smooth as on NVidia 3000-series GPUs. However, the visual gains are still striking and worth pursuing if you don’t mind the occasional framerate dip.
Is the 6800 XT good for streaming?
Streaming isn’t a resource-intensive task, so any of the CPUs suggested in this article will be more than capable of handling it. The answer isn’t as clear-cut if you also create and encode videos. Radeon cards don’t have CUDA cores video editing software uses extensively to speed up conversion. They do support OpoenCL, but that’s not enough to beat current top-tier NVidia GPUs. On the bright side, this is only relevant if you make video content extensively. Taking a few more minutes to occasionally render a video shouldn’t impact your choice.